December 2, 2022

The main photo is of a mouse known to all Icelanders: Lilli klifurmús. More about him a bit later...

Kanína - kanínur
Rabbits are not native to Iceland. They are the descendants of pets that have been released by their owners, for whatever reasons. They are not suited for the Icelandic winters, but have somehow managed to survive. Despite their fluffy cuteness, and the sympathy they elicit due to their owners‘ cruel dismissal, they are considered a pest which the Icelandic Institute of Natural History wants eradicated.

One particularly nasty rabbit habit is stealing puffin burrows in the Westman Islands, essentially banishing the former inhabitants. In Reykjavík rabbits mostly reside in Elliðaárdalur and Öskjuhlíð. These little creatures cause a lot of damage in gardens, to the foundations of houses in Elliðaárdalur and the cemetary near in Öskjuhlíð, and also by nibbling on summer houses. An incident in which a cyclist fell off his bike in the lush Reykjavík valley Elliðaárdalur, broke a leg and suffered a collapsed lung, the insurance company rejected the insurance claim, concluding that there wasn‘t enough evidence that a rabbit jumped out and caused the accident.

Reykjavík city has strived to cull the rabbit population, without much success (or actual action), until now. In collaboration with volunteer animal rescuers from Dýrahjálp and Villikanína they launched a humane effort to rid Elliðaárdalur of the cute pest. This effort has already seen around 80 rabbits caught, neutered and vaccinated. When this is written, Dýrahjálp is looking for volunteers to help save the rabbits, and find them homes.

Mús - mýs
Now on the smaller of these two gnawing animals: the mouse. There are 2 types of mice in Iceland, the field mouse (wood mouse) and the house mouse. The one we call field mouse probably arrived with the early settlers, as did the house mouse, though the latter has not been established for sure, and most who read this are probably ok with not knowing ;) Field mice can now be found all over Iceland. It is the only "gnawing animal“ (see earlier post) that lives in Iceland independent of man. The house mouse is very dependant on man, and can often be found in horse stables, basement and any types of storage.

All wild mammals in Iceland are protected in their natural habitat – except the mink, rats, and the poor little house mouse. The field mice are therefore protected, unless they wander into human habitations, and any other places we humans have erected and use. Both types mice can be "hunted“ indoors. If you catch either of them we hope you'll choose to catch & release!

One particular mouse has played an important role in Icelandic children‘s formative years for decades now. In Icelandic he‘s called Lilli klifurmús. His first name indicates that he is small, and the second means "climbing mouse". Lilli is the only mouse of that variety in Iceland. Lilli klifurmús is a lead character in a play by the Norwegian Thorbjörn Egener, Dýrin í Hálsaskógi (Hakkebakkeskoven in the original), about animals in a forest and their various adventures basically centred on getting along, and not eating one another. Lilli sings a famous lullaby called Dvel ég í draumahöll, to his nemesis, the fox Mikki refur. Click here to see it performed by actors at the National Theatre some years ago (around min. 11.00). Lilli klifurmús refers to the fox as skolli, another word for, well,fox.


Kanína = rabbit

pl. kanínur

Mús = mouse

pl. mýs

Stables for horses = hesthús (lit.: horse house)

Basement = kjallari

Storage = geymsla

Klifurmús = climbing mouse

Lullaby = vögguvísa

Dvel ég í draumahöll = I dwell in a castle made of dreams

Skolli = fox

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